Surprising Facts About Meghan Markle's Wedding Tiara

Meghan Markle's decision to wear Queen Mary's diamond bandeau tiara made headlines.
joyce chen wedding news expert the knot
by
Joyce Chen
joyce chen wedding news expert the knot
Joyce Chen
Wedding News Contributor
  • Joyce writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, specializing in celebrity wedding features and pieces on wedding trends and etiquette
  • Joyce conducts interviews with real couples about how they’ve adapted to the challenges of wedding planning during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic
  • In addition to The Knot Worldwide, Joyce also regularly contributes writing to Architectural Digest, Paste magazine, Refinery29, and TODAY.com
Updated Nov 02, 2021
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Much like everything else surrounding Meghan Markle and the royal family, her choice of tiara on her wedding day raised eyebrows, made headlines, and stirred up some serious royal controversy. On May 19, 2018, Meghan married Prince Harry in a lavish, televised ceremony at Windsor Castle, where her sleek Givenchy wedding dress (designed by British designer Clare Waight Keller) caused a buzz amongst fans of the royal family, who marveled at its elegant silhouette and modern design. The Duchess of Sussex's headpiece also caught viewers' attention: an Art Deco-style diamond-encrusted band that, in Meghan's own words, appealed to her because it was "incredibly timeless but still [felt] modern."

It turns out there was much more to the story behind how she came to choose Queen Mary's bandeau tiara—and it involved rumors of tension between the bride-to-be and Queen Elizabeth, as well as rumblings of discord between Prince Harry and the queen's dresser, Angela Kelly. The reason all reportedly boiled down to Meghan's first choice tiara, the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik tiara.

Which Tiara Did Meghan Markle Wear on Her Wedding Day?

The tiara Meghan Markle ultimately wore on her big day is known as Queen Mary's bandeau tiara, a royal family heirloom on loan from Her Majesty the Queen. Comprised of a flexible band of 11 different sections, each covered in large and small diamonds, the diamond tiara's main focal point is a detachable brooch with a center stone surrounded by nine smaller diamonds. Traditionally, the tiara has been spotted with a sapphire as the center stone, but Meghan opted to swap the blue jewel out for a diamond instead (also lent to her by Queen Elizabeth).

On an audio recording for a royal exhibit at Windsor Castle, Meghan noted that the tiara caught her eye because it was "so clean and simple," much like her Givenchy wedding dress. She styled the piece with a 16-foot silk tulle veil embroidered with 53 flowers representing each country in the British Commonwealth, along with a California poppy, the official flower of her home state.

Who Else Has Worn Queen Mary's Bandeau Tiara?

Meghan Markle borrowed her diamond tiara from Queen Elizabeth, who had, in turn, inherited it from her grandmother, Queen Mary. Queen Mary had the tiara made in 1932 out of a brooch she had received as a gift from the County of Lincoln in 1893 when she married the then-future King George V; she left the impressive bandeau tiara to Queen Elizabeth II in her will. In addition to Queen Mary, the diamond tiara has also been worn by her daughter-in-law, Princess Marina of Kent, who wore it to a ball in 1935, but otherwise has largely stayed out of the public eye.

Other tiaras passed down to Queen Elizabeth have gotten more play, including the fringe tiara, which the Queen wore for her own wedding in 1947, and the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara. Much as the Cambridge Lovers' Knot tiara is now most closely linked to Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, the Queen Mary bandeau tiara is now most closely linked to Meghan.

Surprising Facts About Meghan Markle's Wedding Tiara

Fans of the royal family were eager to know all the details of Meghan Markle's head-turning wedding day look, including her glittery diamond tiara. But beyond just getting to know all about the Queen Mary bandeau tiara, much of the public was intrigued by how Meghan came upon her choice. As is tradition, Meghan did not don the tiara prior to her big day, meaning that it was anyone's guess which of Queen Elizabeth's many stunning headpieces the Duchess of Sussex would decide upon. When it came time to reveal her pick, Meghan wowed with the Art Deco-style Queen Mary headpiece. Then, six months later, a bombshell: The Sun released a story that would lead to what was widely known as "tiaragate," sparking rumors that Meghan's decision wasn't, perhaps, so clean-cut after all.

The Bandeau Tiara was reportedly not her first choice.

According to the article, Meghan had originally wanted to wear the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik tiara, but was told by the Queen that it would not be appropriate for her to wear that particular tiara. Royal historian Robert Lacey later clarified in his book, Battle of Brothers: William and Harry – The Inside Story of a Family in Tumult, that the reason Queen Elizabeth had rejected Meghan's first choice was a reasonable one: because the emerald tiara was said to have been possibly Russian, meaning that it could have been acquired in an unsavory way. Long story short, the tiara was linked to scandal, and so the Queen thought it best not for Meghan to wear it for fear of bad luck.

Prince Harry allegedly had tensions with the Queen's dressmaker.

Then, another plot twist. Royal experts Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand rejected claims that there was ever any issue between the Queen and Meghan in their new book Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family. Instead, Scobie and Durand wrote, the tension over the tiara was actually between Prince Harry and the Queen's dresser, Angela Kelly. The royal journalists noted that the prince took issue with how slow Kelly was in getting the tiara to Meghan during a pre-wedding hair trial, and that was the actual source of frustration. Queen Elizabeth actually didn't take any issue with Meghan's choice of tiara, Scobie and Durand wrote.

Princess Eugenie ultimately wore the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik tiara for her wedding.

Despite rumors that the Queen didn't want Meghan to wear the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik tiara for superstitious reasons, the sparkling headpiece actually did make its way into another royal wedding: Princess Eugenie's wedding to Jack Brooksbank just six months later. Her sister, Princess Beatrice, wore another well-known tiara of Queen Mary's for her own wedding nearly two years later: the diamond fringe tiara, which the Queen actually wore for her own wedding to Prince Philip in 1947.

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